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Southwark Council Cost-Cutting Risking Lives

Getting the best value for money is important to everyone.  Whether personal or business we all want to get as much as we can from the resources we have.  In business it’s called best value.  My grandfather called it “not throwing your money away”.  Whatever you choose to call it, it’s not rocket science.

Getting the right people and equipment to do a job is important.  Again, it’s not rocket science.  You wouldn’t use a lawnmower to put nails into walls nor would you hire an aromatherapist to rewire your house.  You wouldn’t hire me to provide safety checks at a nuclear reactor.  These courses of action would surely lead to things going wrong.

I have some experience in the housing sector as well as some in fire and security.  So I was very shocked to read that Southwark Council had used housing officers to provide fire risk assessments on high properties instead of surveyors.  It seems the logic was that a one day training course would equip a housing officer to be able to carry out an assessment with the same level of knowledge, skill and expertise of an experienced surveyor.

The words to respond to such a serious lack of Clue and dereliction of standards fail me.  Well, polite ones do.

Who seriously thought that a housing officer would be able to do a surveyor’s job?  With just one day’s training?  I have seen both surveyors and housing officers at work and they are jobs requiring different knowledge and skill sets.  Both jobs are challegning enough on their own.  The idea of mixing them strikes me as crass stupidity.

The BBC’s article continues with a killer punch:

Every council in London used external consultants or in-house experts to carry out checks, except one – Southwark Council had sent 132 housing officers for one day’s training by the London Fire Brigade [LFB].

These officers were dispatched to carry out detailed checks on aging buildings six storeys or higher.

But the LFB did not think they were qualified for the job.

An email from a top LFB official, leaked to BBC London, said: “Our course information clearly states the course is designed to provide the knowledge to undertake assessments in simple premises.

“The course is not designed to equip attendees to carry out assessments in complex structures where a clear level of expertise is required.”

An official LFB statement confirmed: “London Fire Brigade does not approve housing officers to carry out fire risk assessments.”

Southwark’s cost-cutting cost six lives.  Whoever thought up this half-witted idea and whoever approved it should come forward, admit their errors and resign.  I hope that the authorities give serious consideration to manslaughter charges being levelled against those people.

As the former station officer who trained me on fire marshalling said “Responsibility goes upwards in matters regarding fire safety.”

I hope those responsible for this incomprehensibly stupid decision are held to account for their catastrophic lack of Clue.

Published inbad managementethicslack of ClueManagementsafety